Brasilian or Brasilian Portuguese ?

Lurker   Friday, May 20, 2005, 03:17 GMT

A personal experience

As an American married to a Brazilian, with two Brazilian children, and with 17 years experience with Brazilian Portuguese (BP), coming to Portugal and trying to adapt to the European variety of Portuguese (EP) was not easy at first. I think that if I had not known any other variety of the language, in effect coming with a clean slate, the period of linguistic adaptation would have been smoother.

When we first arrived in Porto it was very difficult to understand the people. They could understand us but the opposite was not true. Now that we have been here for nine years, going on ten, the language presents less of a problem, and communication is not so labored. As in most language learning situations we tend to struggle with the less educated. This of course is because as teachers we have most of our contact with middle-class people with some schooling, who speak a standard form of the language.

Knowing BP was help and a hindrance when we arrived in Portugal. On the one hand, most of the arduous process of learning the local language was facilitated and we could communicate from the first day on. On the other hand, the knowledge of the other linguistic variety impeded the learning process in many ways. Prejudices about the supposed attractiveness and even superiority of BP made it harder to accept EP. Many Portuguese themselves say that the sounds of BP are more melodious and softer than EP.

Another problem is that the BP speaker has no, or almost no contact with EP. Outside the restricted world of the Portuguese colony in Rio and São Paulo, with its clubs and codfish dinners, Brazilians have no experience of what EP sounds like. Even the Portuguese who have lived in Brazil for a certain period of time soon lose their accent and do their best to blend in with the local culture. This rarely occurs with the Brazilian in Portugal. Perhaps this blending in in Brazil was because the Portuguese immigrants were looked upon as ignorant and backward, despite their economic success.

The historical idea of what a Portuguese was like has never been a positive one in Brazil. In fact, most of the jokes told are about the Portuguese. The prejudice and ignorance about Portugal can be shocking at times, if one is Portuguese. One student of mine who visited Brazil was told he had such an interesting way of speaking (read comprehensible accent) that he didn’t even seem to be Portuguese.

In a situation in which no cultural input from Portugal enters Brazil there is almost a total ignorance about the mother nation. Portuguese singers have never even tried to penetrate the Brazilian market. Recently a Portuguese rock group performed live at a rock concert in Rio. The Portuguese television reporter interviewed several young people and asked them what they thought about the music. The first comment was that it sounded ok but they couldn’t understand a word.

Portuguese television and films have likewise never been shown in Brazil, outside a few art cinemas in Rio or São Paulo. A recent package of Portuguese films was sent to be shown during the celebrations commemorating the discovery of Brazil. It was decided that the films could only be shown with subtitles.

The EP variety of the language is almost never heard in Brazil, especially in the interior. A student of mine, when visiting a small town in Brazil, was asked if she was speaking Italian. Brazilian women who went to a women’s congress in Moscow in the early sixties, before the revolution of 1964, said that when the delegates words were being translated into EP on their headphones, they had to switch to a Spanish translation to understand. Surely the same would not happen with Spanish from Spain and Mexican Spanish, or even with American and British English—although dialects like Geordie or Scouse can be unintelligible for Americans. But they are dialects; here we are talking about standard varieties.

When the Brazilian arrives in Portugal he encounters two types of reactions to his Portuguese. There are those who think he has a “nice” accent and enjoy listening to it. There are also those who seem to resent the fact that a different type of Portuguese is being spoken, and more so in Brazil—a country that most people in the world today identify with the Portuguese language. A Portuguese student of mine resented the fact that in Paris, on a sightseeing bus, the symbol for the Portuguese language was the Brazilian flag and the narration of the tour was in BP. Ironically this is in a city with close to half a million Portuguese immigrants. Obviously they don’t go on sightseeing tours.

Children, adolescents, and simple working people, be they villagers or city folk, are very accepting of BP. They watch soap operas from Brazil, listen to Brazilian singers like Daniela Mercury, Gal Costa etc. and generally accept the different accent and vocabulary. The problem arises with more educated older people, usually those who have gone to university or are at university. We have seen that negative language attitudes towards BP come from the middle class. An example can be seen below:

You say that the Portuguese say that all the Brazilians speak an incorrect Portuguese. Many do! And no, I am not even talking about such inventions as verbs like "Parabenizar" [Dar os Parabéns] (congratulate), or expressions like "Deu bandeira" [deu para o torto] (it is screwed up). No sir. I am talking about how Brazilians can't conjugate the second person of the plural [you - Vós]. There are a great deal of other unbelievable mistakes. If you wish, I can start to watch soap operas once again and take note of all the tons of spelling and gramatical mistakes they make. I advise watching "Os quintos dos Infernos". The older the time when the soap is supposed to be, the more numerous is the number of "stabs" that Portuguese has to endure.


Most Brazilians can't speak Portuguese. I don't use "vós" and I can conjugate it. We don't use the gerund in Portugal (we use the infinitive), and we can still use it correctly. Some can't even use "tu" [you] correctly, let alone vós. Not all Brazilians all under this category. I was pleased to notice that the Brazilian comedian Jô Soares can speak correctly the Portuguese. Famous Brazilian actors like Lima Duarte or Tony Ramos can't. Once again: I am not talking about vocabulary. I am talking about not being able to conjugate verbs, to show it on national television and no one giving a damn.

Most Brazilians actors conjugate the verbs as correctly as my Cape Verdean housekeeper than is illiterate. Remember that in Portugal we are exposed daily to a massive amount of Brazilian culture.
As a University student, I might tell you that in veterinary Medicine a large portion of our books are Brazilian translations. Some of the translations are so lame, that many students chose to buy the original English versions.

Not surprisingly the person who wrote the above is not even aware that in Brazil "vós" has not been used for centuries and that "tu" is used by very few Brazilians. A lot of what some Portuguese say about Brazilian Portuguese is the same as what some British have said about American English.

The comments made about BP are always the same. The mother tongue is EP and BP speakers should not persist in their linguistic rebellion. Centuries of separation from the mother country are not taken into consideration. Brazilian children who enter the Portuguese school system see their writing covered with red marks, with every BP word or spelling singled out for correction. They either learn the Portuguese way or fail. There is no such thing as linguistic diversity or multicultural education in Portugal. All immigrants must adapt to the standard or risk failure.

As most of the articles or books required for university studies are written in foreign languages—nine times out of ten in English-- and not in EP (the market is too small for translation) the students either have to read in the foreign language, pay someone to translate it, or heaven forbid, read a translation made in BP. The negative reaction to the reading of these academic articles and books in BP is almost pathological. “The Brazilians don’t know how to translate.” “The Portuguese is all wrong.” “We prefer to struggle with English than have to read in a Brazilian translation.”

Ignorance? Yes, a lot of it does stem from total ignorance of linguistics. But there is also the possibility of nationalistic pride and that same inferiority complex that makes the Portuguese so negative about Spain. “Spanish food is terrible,” or “the Spanish language is harsh and ugly.” The fact that Brazilians have translated such articles and books, and the Portuguese haven’t, wounds their nationalistic pride. They forget that the Brazilian market is so much larger—with hundreds of universities compared to Portugal’s dozens—and it is logical that the publishers would have a translation in BP.

The solution for all of this is of course for Portugal to try to make Brazilians more aware of their modern culture, including the language. I don’t think the two languages will come closer together in the near future though. Certainly it won’t occur by way of government fiat. As long as Brazil remains so far away, with much more in common with its Latin American neighbors, and with the United States, Portugal and Brazil will not be close linguistically or culturally. The force of Brazilian culture is much stronger because it comes with economic clout and the reality of having over one hundred and sixty million people versus ten million. In the future there will be much more infiltration of Brazilian Portuguese because of music, television, and immigration. Perhaps with a strong Portuguese presence in the Brazilian economy—supermarkets, electricity, banks, and cellular telephones—there might be an accompanying cultural and linguistic input, but this is yet to be seen. The Portuguese companies that have acquired a position in the Brazilian economy will most likely do everything they can to blend in and appear to be Brazilian.

For a discussion of the thesis that Brazil and Portugal already speak two different languages see these articles by Brazilian sociolinguist Marcos Bagno, Brasil e Portugal já falam duas línguas diferentes and Ensinar português e estudar o brasileiro. This highly respected author and professor of Linguistics has an extremely interesting site, , which is a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in the Portuguese language.

See a humorous article by P. A. Grisoli called Portugal para principiantes: Onde o bumbum é rabinho.
mjd   Friday, May 20, 2005, 03:23 GMT
No one here has presented any argument to show that the language spoken in Brazil is not Portuguese. Why have they been unable to do so? Because there aren't any good arguments. Wanessa's comment about how something would be written in Brazilian Portuguese as opposed to Portuguese Portuguese is interesting, but it proves nothing.

I've heard Brazilians say "Eu falei p'ra ele" instead of "eu disse-lhe", but that doesn't mean that it isn't Portuguese.
Lurker   Friday, May 20, 2005, 03:28 GMT

Recently TV Bandeirantes showed the first Portuguese soap opera on Brazilian TV. The comments on the quality were positive and the audience share was encouraging. The strangest aspect of the whole event was that the original Portuguese was substituted by Brazilian Portuguese (dubbed), including the music from the soundtrack. Apparently the Braziians thought that it would be too difficult to understand the original.

Há tempos, a teledramaturgia tornou-se um dos principais produtos de exportação do País. As telenovelas brasileiras, principalmente as da Globo, já foram vistas em mais de 150 países, nos mais diferentes cantos do mundo. Só Portugal, através da rede SIC, já assistiu a mais de 60 delas, muitas exibidas quase simultaneamente com o Brasil. Agora, Portugal começa a fazer o caminho inverso. A produtora NBP, um das maiores de lá, fechou parceria com a Band para a exibição de algumas produções por aqui. Neste domingo, às 19 horas, estréia a série "Olá Pai", sobre um solteirão convicto que, de repente, se vê às voltas com um recém-nascido. Nesta segunda, a emissora exibe, às 16h30, a novela "Olhos de Água", sobre duas gêmeas que, separadas na infância, se reencontram, já adultas. "Optamos pela teledramaturgia portuguesa porque ela vai ser uma grande novidade para o público brasileiro", acredita Celso Tavares, diretor de produção e programação.
A exibição de tramas produzidas pela NBP é apenas o primeiro passo da parceria firmada com a Band. Num futuro próximo, as duas planejam co-produzir novelas, seriados e minisséries para o mercado brasileiro. A última vez que a Band exibiu novelas foi em 1998, com "Serras Azuis", de Ana Maria Moretzsohn. Enquanto não retoma o núcleo de teledramaturgia, a rede reinaugura, em março, um segundo horário de novelas, com "Morangos com Açúcar", voltada para o público adolescente. A parceria com a NBP começou ano passado, quando a Band julgou indispensável exibir novelas para cativar o público feminino, a mais nova prioridade do canal. "As tramas portuguesas têm ótima qualidade técnica e artística, com tratamento bem diferenciado das produções hispânicas. Na verdade, elas não negam a forte influência da brasileira", analisa Celso Tavares.
Fundada em 1992 pelos atores Nicolau Breyner e Antônio Parente, que veio ao Brasil na última semana para divulgar as produções, a NBP surgiu mesmo sob forte influência brasileira. Na época, Antônio Parente pediu ao amigo Jô Soares que indicasse o nome de um diretor brasileiro que ele pudesse levar para Portugal. O escolhido foi Régis Cardoso, diretor de "Estúpido Cupido", "O Bem-Amado" e "Anjo Mau". "Ajudei a implantar o know-how brasileiro na teledramaturgia portuguesa. Quando cheguei lá, eles não tinham nem estúdio, nem equipamento... Quando vim embora, Antônio Parente me considerou responsável pela formação daquela empresa", orgulha-se Régis Cardoso, que não dirige novelas no Brasil desde "Tocaia Grande", de 1995, na extinta Manchete.
Nos três anos em que ficou em Portugal, Régis dirigiu "Cinzas", "Verão Quente" e "Na Paz dos Anjos". "Os atores portugueses têm um nível artístico altíssimo. Muitos deles, como o Joaquim de Andrade, já fizeram cinema até em Hollywood", lembra, numa alusão ao ator que protagonizou o "Xangô de Baker Street", rodado no Brasil. Quanto às tramas propriamente ditas, Régis notava um certo puritanismo nas primeiras produções da NBP. "As tramas portuguesas são menos folhetinescas e mais educativas que as nossas", compara.
Apesar do pouco tempo de existência, a NBP tornou-se uma das maiores produtoras de Portugal. Atualmente, ela produz novelas para as três principais emissoras do país: SIC, RTP e TVI. Por vezes, duas novelas produzidas pela NBP disputaram audiência em emissoras concorrentes. "Lembro que 'Olhos de Água' fez enorme sucesso em 2001 e virou a grande concorrente de 'Ganância', novela em que eu atuava", observa o ator Oscar Magrini, que fez duas novelas nos seis meses em que passou além-mar: "Ganância", pela SIC, e "Senhora das Águas", pela RTP. Para ele, as novelas portuguesas têm tudo para angariar a simpatia de outro importante segmento de público, além do feminino. "A colônia portuguesa no Brasil é numerosíssima. Muitos patrícios vão querer matar saudades da terrinha", brinca.
Lurker   Friday, May 20, 2005, 03:32 GMT
I think you can begin to draw the line when one speaker cannot understand the dialect of another.
mjd   Friday, May 20, 2005, 03:37 GMT
That's ridiculous. I've seen Brazilians and Portuguese interact before and there hasn't been any problems with communication. In addition to that, the Portuguese understand the Brazilians without any trouble. It has to do with exposure and being used to the other's accent.
mjd   Friday, May 20, 2005, 03:41 GMT

Click on the recordings of the Brazilian samples. These are Brazilian speakers speaking normally. The text is also provided.

For someone to try to say that it is a separate language is almost laughable.
Rui   Friday, May 20, 2005, 10:02 GMT
Brasilians can't understand Portuguese, Continental Portuguese can't understand Açoreans and Madeirese, people from Minho can't understand people from Algarve ... at first. After some time of exposure to the accent everything goes fine.
Jo   Friday, May 20, 2005, 13:09 GMT
« A friend of mine encountred some Portuguese people when she was in Munique, and these people started correcting her Portuguese. And she is middle-class girl with a university degree. Obviously there is something wrong with Portuguese people. They should work on their politeness.
Portuguese xenofoby has made a Brazilian radio station (Radio Cidade) in Portugal to be closed since they made it clear: Brazilian Portuguese is not wanted in portugal anymore. »

We have been for 25 years in Portugal.My wife, who is from Rio, has never ever been corrected by a Portuguese. Rather : if she said something they hadn't heard before she was asked to repeat it. There are expressions and words the Portuguese delight in.

ref the radio station: It was fun in the beginning but after a while with these guys trying to outdo each other's 'Brazilianess', it became quite a pain to listen to their 'gritaria'.Your argument that Brazilian Portuguese isn't wanted gets proven wrong because if that were the case how come prime Television time is in BP in the form of novelas? How come certain concerts with Brazilian singers get sold out? How come one can hear BP music on the radio all the time?
Now who, should I say, has a serious xenofoby ?
Jo   Friday, May 20, 2005, 17:05 GMT
»Luís Fernando Veríssimo has a weekly chronicle in one of ours most prestigious journals. »
Which paper is that and on what day?
I have been looking in Bertrand's for Luis Verissimo here in the Algarve but nope.It is just Paulo Coelho. Parece que descobriram que ele é um best seller.
Um abraço,
Lyena   Friday, May 20, 2005, 19:09 GMT

''For someone to try to say that it is a separate language is almost laughable.''

Portuguese soap operas and movies are always dubbed into Brazilian or subtitled when they appear on Brazilian TV stations, and Portuguese music is not popular in Brazil at all.

So, efectively speaking, we Brazilians don't understand Portuguese people speaking. It is easier for us understand Argentinian Spanish than Continental Portuguese.
Lyena   Friday, May 20, 2005, 19:16 GMT
As for Paulo Coelho, all his books are translated from Brazilian Portuguese into Continental Portuguese since Portuguese hate reading original Brazilian texts.. Everything: synthax, spelling, word usage is changed.

so, the original Coelho's sentence ''Chegamos nas pirâmides'' was changed into ''Chegámos às pirâmides'' in the Portuguese translation:

Brazilian (original ) -Chegamos- became -Chegámos- (an additional accent)

and -nas- became -às- (different preposition)

In Italy and Germany they offer separate language courses @ universities: you can study either Brazilian studies (and get a degree in Brazilianistics) or Portuguese studies (and get a degree in Lusitanistics). It is easier to learn Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish than Brazilian Portuguese and Continental Portuguese together. Brazilian usage is so much closer to Spanish usage than to Continental Portuguese.
Lyena   Friday, May 20, 2005, 19:21 GMT

Abstract: This paper presents examples of the differences between Brazilian, European and African Portuguese, from a Brazilian perspective. The examples are separated into general types (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) and some general rules (when they exist) are outlined.


The objective of this article is to point out some of the glaring differences between European, Brazilian and African Portuguese (as exemplified by current literature, newspaper articles and government publications). The examples are from a Brazilian viewpoint, as I live and work in Brazil.

To be a good translator, one must be well read in both target and source languages. For me, this would mean reading exclusively Brazilian Portuguese and English material — not very difficult for most Brazilians but impossible for me since I am working on a doctorate in Lusophone African Literature. Every time I read something written in European Portuguese I feel a sort of vertigo: "Is this Portuguese?" African Portuguese is somewhat more familiar. When reading texts in European or African Portuguese, I have to tell myself: "don't remember this!" European Portuguese actually seems like Pig Latin sometimes, since the Portuguese like to put object pronouns after the verbs whereas we like to put them in front. I seriously consider European and Brazilian Portuguese to be different target languages (and only translate into Brazilian Portuguese).

An aside: I do not intend to discuss accents here, but suffice it to say that when studying literature at the University of São Paulo, I understood my Italian professor perfectly but it took me a good 10 minutes to understand my Portuguese professor each class (like having to warm up a car on a frosty morning) and the process had to be repeated every week. Even then, I did not catch everything he said.

The following abbreviations are used throughout the rest of the text: PT: European Portuguese, BR: Brazilian Portuguese, AF: African Portuguese, CV: Cape Verdean Portuguese, MZ: Mozimbiquan Portuguese and AN: Angolan Portuguese. Now, on to the examples.


As in English (UK and US), there are basic spelling changes that were not smoothed over by the 1971 spelling agreement between Brazil and Portugal. Some of the differences are due to the fact that they really pronounce things differently in Portugal, thus the different accents (metrô (BR)/metro (PT)) or extra letters (diretor(BR)/director(PT)). Other differences have no apparent justification: (óptimo (PT)/ótimo (BR)). Any attempt to classify these spelling rules can become confusing: (fato (PT) = terno(BR)) while (facto (PT) = fato (BR)) and (óptico (PT) = óptico (BR) (to do with vision)) and (ótico (PT) = ótico (BR) (to do with hearing)). Many Brazilian opticians call their shop "Ótica Tal" erroneously following the rule "remove the p before the t for Brazil." Aurélio has even listed ótica as an alternative spelling, the error is so widespread. African spelling tends to follow European spelling.


I will begin this section with a European Portuguese literary passage. "Na passadeira de peões surgiu o desenho do homem verde... Os automobilistas, impacientes, com o pé no pedal da embraiagem, mantinham em tensão os carros..."(Ref. 1) In Brazilian Portuguese this would be: "Na faixa de pedestres surgiu o desenho do homem verde... Os motoristas, impacientes, com o pé no pedal da embreagem, mantinham em tensão os carros..." The European Portuguese sentence is not just non-idiomatic. Depending on the level of the reader it would be nonsensical. Passadeira (BR) most commonly refers to a woman who irons clothes, a peão (BR) is a cowboy, soldier, or chess pawn, and an automobilista (BR) is a race-car driver.

Another example is from the new area of computers and the Internet. European Portuguese is much less accepting of foreign (English) words like (mouse (BR) / rato (PT)) and (site (BR) / sítio (PT)). I sincerely hope I will never need to translate the plural of mouse into Portuguese. The example below shows not only one difference in terminology for Internet navigation, but also the different stylistic conventions for verbs. In Brazilian Portuguese the "Você" is needed (A Brazilian reader would ask herself "who" if you eliminate it) for the sentence to be idiomatic. I will discuss verbs later.

"Encontra-se neste momento a abandonar a Página Oficial da Presidência da República Portuguesa." (Ref. 2) (PT) / "Você está saindo da Página Oficial da Presidência da República Portuguesa." (BR)

Some typical examples of differing vocabulary are:

comboio (PT): trem (BR)

autocarro (PT) : ônibus (BR)

hospedeira (PT) : aeromoça (BR)

virar (BR) (in the sense of tornar-se (PT e BR))

perceber (PT/AF) (meaning entender (BR))

Sometimes the European Portuguese word seems quaint, but other times real misunderstandings can occur

African Portuguese vocabulary tends to follow European Portuguese vocabulary, with the addition of words relating to local foods, plants, animals, and places. Angolan Portuguese, for example, has incorporated words from the local quimbundo language:

musseque (AN) /favela (BR),

quinda (AN) / cesta (BR e PT)

mona (AN) / criança, filho (BR e PT)

Mozambique and Cape Verde have also created their own words either by importing them from tribal or foreign languages or modifying Portuguese through a creolization process:

Pomporra(MZ) = petulância (PT e BR)

Morna (CV) = a type of music somewhat similar to Fado

Mamana (MZ) = mãe, senhora (PT/BR)

Grogue (CV) = aguardente (PT/BR)

I am not familiar enough with the Portuguese of São Tomé and Príncipe and Guinea-Bissau to provide examples.


Brazilian and European Portuguese also differ in how sentences are put together, especially in terms of the use of articles and the choice of prepositions:

todo homem é mortal (BR) / todo o homem é mortal (PT)

meu carro (BR) / o meu carro (PT)

"ambas instituições propõem-se cooperar igualmente" (Ref. 3) (AN) / "ambas as instituições se propõem a cooperar igualmente" (BR)

Unfortunately, most Brazilian dictionaries that include preposition collocation mention all possible collocations rather than just the most common or idiomatic. The Luft Dictionary is particularly good in that it sometimes mentions Brazilian/European Portuguese differences. Francisco Fernandes' Dicionário de regimes de substantivos e adjetivos, while very useful, does not indicate European and Brazilian usage (though examples from both countries are used) and gives all possible noun/adjective + preposition combinations. Even worse, the prepositions are listed in alphabetical order rather than in terms of which would be considered more idiomatic.

Since it is hard to find an example where only syntax or only grammar differences appear, I will present syntax examples in the next section.


The two largest grammatical differences between the Portugueses are the use of estar + gerund (BR) v. estar a + infinitive (PT/AF) and the position of direct and indirect object pronouns. The gerund/infinitive clash can be seen in the following example:

"Com 200 jornalistas a trabalhar em permanência e 80 a colaborar numa base regular ou eventual, em várias partes do país e do mundo, a LUSA cobre sobre a hora os acontecimentos relevantes e divulga-os no preciso momento em que estão a ocorrer." (Ref. 4) (PT)

"Com 200 jornalistas trabalhando permanentamente e 80 colaborando regular ou eventualmente, em várias partes do país e do mundo, a LUSA cobre em tempo real Os acontecimentos relevantes, divulgando-os no preciso momento em que estão ocorrendo." (BR)

As for pronouns, in Brazil we are taught that certain types of words "attract" them: (1) negative words like não and nem, (2) adverbs, (3) relative pronouns like quem, que, qual, and (4) subjects or subject pronouns like ele and eu. In Brazil, pronouns also tend to (5) stick to the last verb (infinitive or past participle) whereas in Europe they tend to stick to the first (conjugated) verb. The first three attractor rules also apply in Portugal, but in all other cases the tendency is to place the pronouns at the end (of the conjugated verb) with a hyphen.

The application of rules (4) and (5) in Brazilian Portuguese are shown below:

(4) João se levantou (BR) / João levantou-se (PT/CV)

(4) Acalme-se, eu o levo (BR) / Acalme-se, eu levo-o (PT)

(5) pode me dizer (BR) / pode-me dizer (PT)

(5) não tinha ainda se afastado (BR) / não se tinha ainda afastado (PT)

African Portuguese seems to be more flexible. The following sentence both follows and breaks rule (2) above:

"Pessoalmente sentia-se indigno da sorte que agora lhe cabia;" (Ref. 5) (CV)

Another example from Cape Verde is "ficar-se-á com uma idéia de quanto ele me deve mas tão mal pagou."(Ref. 6) (CV) The first construction "ficar-se-á" is grammatically correct in Brazil and Portugal, but avoided at all costs by Brazilian writers; normally a subject, any subject, is inserted to "attract" the pronoun. The second verb "ele me deve" clearly follows Brazilian rule (4).

One rule followed both in Brazil and Portugal is that a sentence may never begin with an object pronoun, though everyday speech in Brazil and Africa commonly includes this type of construction. The following example is interesting in that the object pronoun begins the sentence (which is not dialog): "Lhe subiu uma repentina raiva de, no passado, se ter sentido irmão daquelas animálias." (Ref. 7) (MZ) The second verb is also odd as in Brazil one would expect "ter se sentido" and in Portugal one would expect "ter-se sentido". On the same page, the same writer avoids beginning a sentence with an object pronoun: "Acusavam-no de ter morto não um bicho mas um homem transfigurado." (Ref. 8) (MZ) Extremely flexible!


Punctuation and capitalization are also very different for Brazilian and non-Brazilian Portuguese. African Portuguese tends to follow European Portuguese in matters of style. The names of months are capitalized in Portugal, but not in Brazil. Words like rua, praça, etc. when used as part of a street name are not capitalized in Portugal, but are in Brazil. Titles (and their abbreviations) such as dona/d., sr. and dr. are not capitalized in Portugal, whereas they are in Brazil.

Brazilian text almost always uses "" for quotes, though for dialog the — is still appears. In European and African texts, << and >> are still used, together with the — for dialog.


Many translation clients are not aware of how different Portuguese usage is, and we who translate Portuguese should work to make them aware of the difficulties. I hope that after pondering the examples above few translators will try to translate into more than one variety of Portuguese (with the exception being European + African, since there is very little work into African Portuguese.) For those of you who translate from Portuguese, recognizing the differences may make you a better translator, and perhaps convince you that now is the time to pick one Portuguese and stick with it.


1. Saramago, José, Ensaio sobre a cegueira, 21ª reimpressão, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 2002.




5. p. 20, Almeida, Germano de, O testamento do sr. Napumoceno, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 1996.

6. p. 33, Almeida, Germano de, O testamento do sr. Napumoceno, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 1996.

7. p. 72, Couto, Mia, Estórias abensonhadas, Nova Fronteira, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.

8. p. 72, Couto, Mia, Estórias abensonhadas, Nova Fronteira, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.

9. Teyssier, Paul, História da língua portuguesa, Tradução de Celso Cunha, Martins Fontes, São Paulo, 2001.

10. Prata, Mário, Dicionário de português / Schifazfavoire, São Paulo, Globo, 2000.
mjd   Friday, May 20, 2005, 19:23 GMT

Listen to that recording I provided above...Do you actually mean to tell me that the Brazilians speaking are not speaking Portuguese that is understood by all Portuguese speakers from Lisbon to Maputo to East Timor?

Also, the Portuguese understand the Brazilians just fine, so the bit about Brazilians not understanding the Portuguese doesn't mean anything with regard to the language spoken. It has to do with exposure to other accents. If Globo started airing lots of Portuguese TV shows and if there weren't this animosity towards the Portuguese accent by some Brazilians, you'd eventually pick their accent as they have picked up yours.
mjd   Friday, May 20, 2005, 19:25 GMT
Please refrain from posting giant chunks of text, as you can just provide a link just as easily.

It's more interesting to hear someone else's opinion and then go read the actual text via the link than to have to scroll through a huge post that he/she didn't even really write.
Lurker   Friday, May 20, 2005, 19:56 GMT
Semantic and phonological constraints on the distribution of null subjects in Brazilian Portuguese

Mary Aizawa KATO (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil)
Maria Eugênia Lamoglia DUARTE (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is undergoing change in the Null Subject Parameter. Several variationist studies have shown that the change towards filled pronominal subjects is not uniform across grammatical
persons, affecting, according to Duarte (1995), the deictic 1st and 2nd persons (74% and 90% of filled subjects) more frequently than the third person (58%), which can still be null in impersonal constructions,
illustrated in (1):

(1) a. __ me custou sair de casa
cl.1st.p. cost+3rd.p. sg. leave the house
“It took me a long time to leave the house” / “I took a long time to leave the house’

b. __ parece que os homens gostaram da cidade
seems that the men enjoyed+3rd the city “It seems that the men enjoyed the city”

c. __ há / tem muita violência na cidade
there is / has a lot of violence downtown “There is a lot of violence downtown”

To account for selective licensing of null subjects in BP, Cyrino, Duarte & Kato (2000) proposed a sub-parametrization of Null Subject Languages (NSLs) taking into consideration existence of languages
that restrict null subjects to non-referential uses.
We show that, along with impersonal null subject constructions, BP today tolerates unusual raising and hyper-raising constructions (2a,b). It also shows variation between impersonal use of haver/ter in
existential contexts and personal use of ter (2c):

(2) a. Eu custei a sair de casa
I cost to leave the house “I took a long time to leave the house”

b. Os homens parecem que (eles) gostaram da cidade
the men seem+3rd that (they) enjoyed +3rd the city.
“The men seem to have enjoyed the city”

c. Você tem muita violência na cidade
you have a lot of violence downtown “ You have a lot of violence downtown”

The forms in (2) could be interpreted as evidence that BP is becoming a canonical non-NSL, like English. However, canonical non-NSLs, besides allowing personal constructions with haver and raising constructions with parecer ‘seem’, have a more general strategy of filling non-referential subject position with overt expletives, such as it and there, a possibility that does not exist in BP.
We present quantitative evidence for change in progress based on a trend study (Labov 1994) of Rio de Janeiro speakers with low or mid levels of formal education, comparing results from the early 80’s and the late 90’s. The results, which reveal a significant increase in frequency of the structures shown in (2), make it possible to discuss the actuation and embedding of the change and to propose that parametric
change occurs at the interfaces. At the level of Logical Form, Chomsky´s “Avoid Pronoun” constraint functions for languages that allow null subjects. For languages like BP, the constraint is more specific:
“Avoid non-referential pronouns”. We also propose that at the other interface, Phonetic Form, languages have filters regarding their rhythm. To account for preference for the forms in (2) to those in (1), we
propose a prosodic constraint: “Avoid V in initial position”.